Citing the recently released NFL schedule, the following 19 teams should have a minimum of 13 weather-friendly games this season, based on the historical likelihood of snow, sleet, ice or strong winds wreaking havoc in certain markets from Weeks 12-17.
Obviously, it’s impossible to predict which September-December games will be subjected to torrential rains or hurricanes, but it’s also reasonable to conclude that northern cities like Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia, among others, will be susceptible to poor playing conditions anytime after the Nov. 11 round of games.
From a numbers standpoint, this is simply the first small step in predicting fantasy goodness (especially with quarterbacks) and settling potential draft-day quandaries among running backs and receivers — all other factors being equal.
To clarify, no one is suggesting that Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert or Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman are better fantasy prospects than quarterbacks Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, due to more favorable weather conditions.
That would be absurd.
16 Weather-Friendly Games
With three home games, three dome tilts (Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis) and one open-air outing in Charlotte (Dec. 1 against the Panthers), Bucs stars like Josh Freeman (4,065 yards passing, 27 TDs), RB Doug Martin (a top-five pick in all scoring leagues) and receivers Vincent Jackson (72 catches, 1,384 yards, eight TDs) and Mike Williams should have no weather excuses in 2013.
With four home games, two dome trips (Atlanta, New Orleans) and one road tilt in sunny Miami, the Panthers will probably enjoy 16 weather-friendly outings by season’s end. But we’ll give a “15” score, on the assumption of one rainy home game, chewing up the natural grass at Bank Of America Stadium.
Similar to the Panthers, the 49ers are viable candidates for a perfect season of unfettered weather — with three home games, two domers and one trip to Tampa Bay on the docket. The one tricky voyage, a Nov. 25 roadie with the Redskins, may be quite serene in the end.
Last year, the Falcons had a flawless slate of 16 weather-friendly games. So, from that standpoint, getting a “15” score probably seems like a comedown. But only Mother Nature can spare Atlanta for its Dec. 8 trip to Green Bay — with a late-afternoon kickoff. On the plus side, Falcons-Bills has already been moved from Buffalo to the comfy confines of Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
Once again, Drew Brees can bank on at least 15 games of ideal throwing weather with the Saints — thanks to three home games, one indoors experience (Arizona) and one mild trip to Charlotte. A Dec. 2 trip to Seattle is the only dicey contest on the docket.
From a weather-only perspective, the Rams couldn’t have asked for a better slate from Weeks 12-16, featuring three home games and two idyllic trips to San Francisco and Arizona. From a competition standpoint, though, the Rams might have the toughest finishing stretch of any NFL team — Bears, 49ers, Cardinals, Saints, Buccaneers and Seahawks.
Chad Henne vs. Blaine Gabbert may be one of the least appealing quarterback clashes heading into training camp, but neither passer can blame their impending troubles on weather. A Dec. 1 trip to Cleveland is the only smudge on a late slate that includes three home games and two roof-protected contests (Houston, Indy).
The Chargers play the NFC East this fall, but that doesn’t really factor into their down-the-stretch schedule. Instead, San Diego must only be concerned with trips to Miami, Kansas City and Denver in the final seven weeks.
As if we needed another reason to consider drafting Arian Foster (1,641 total yards, 17 TDs last year) and/or Andre Johnson (112 catches, 1,598 yards, four TDs) in the first two rounds. The Texans have three straight home tilts for Weeks 11-13 (Raiders, Jaguars, Patriots), followed by three easy-cheesy weather games with the Jags (road), Colts (road) and Broncos (home).
The only question mark: The trip to Tennessee for the season finale.
Strange but true: The Raiders have drawn a second Thanksgiving Day clash with the Cowboys in four years, which is odd, since the NFL schedule rotation has teams traveling to specific inter-conference foes once every eight years. That aside, Oakland has a pretty clean schedule, weather-wise, with just one dicey roadie (Dec. 8 against the Jets).
Lions stars like Calvin Johnson (122 catches, 1,964 yards, five TDs last year), Matthew Stafford (4,967 yards passing, 24 total TDs), Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure, health permitting, should be in play for Weeks 13-16 — as productive starters — thanks to three home games and one roadie in Philly during that fantasy-playoff stretch.
So much for the Colts taking full advantage of Lucas Oil Stadium in the final weeks, as Indy has five road games after mid-November. On the plus side, the trips to Tennessee, Kansas City and Cincinnati present mild weather challenges.
Of this survey, the Titans are the only team with three straight roadies in the final seven games (Weeks 12-14). Luckily, the first two trips (Oakland, Indianapolis) are largely weather-protected, leaving only the Dec. 8 trip to Denver as dicey.
By season’s end, it’s quite possible that Tennessee has 15 or even 16 weather-friendly games.
With late-season roadies to Jacksonville, Philly, Tennessee and Seattle, the Cardinals will probably end up with 14 — or even 15 — weather-friendly games. So, consider this a green light to draft Larry Fitzgerald in Round 3 … and Carson Palmer sometime in Round 9.
Assuming Dallas doesn’t get hit with a Thanksgiving Day snowstorm — just like the infamous 1993 Leon Lett Game (Part Deux) against Miami — the Cowboys will only have to worry about potentially gruesome weather trips to New York (Giants), Chicago (Bears) and our nation’s capital (Redskins).
Late in the season, the Dolphins draw three potentially brutal roadies with the Jets, Steelers and Bills. Outside of that, it’ll probably be clear sailing for Ryan Tannehill, Mike Wallace and whoever wins one of fantasy’s most underrated tailback battles — Daniel Thomas vs. Lamar Miller.
Colorado weather is schizophrenic in April and May, let alone November and December. As a result, it’s hard to foretell the bad-weather outings from three home games and back-to-back roadies with Kansas City and New England.
With three home games and trips to Denver and Washington, D.C., the Chiefs could easily have five bad-weather contests. But we’ll take the middle ground … and tentatively dole out a “13” score.
The NFL schedule-maker blessed the Bills with three straight climate-controlled games in December, hosting the Falcons in Toronto (Dec. 1), followed by back-to-back Florida trips to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
Perhaps they’ll have a full-time QB by then (Kevin Kolb vs. E.J. Manuel).